Yesterday, I marched from the Civic Center Park in Palm Desert to a small park called, Victoria Park near the north-end of Palm Springs. This was the most eventful march so far.
For a month, I had been trying to find someone in Palm Springs to give me a ride from Victoria Park to the starting point in Palm Desert, but no one came forward. I was searching for bus route information for the 111 Sun Bus in P.S. when a man named Robert P. called me up. He had read that I was in need, and so he called to volunteer. I was so relieved.
On Monday morning, he met me at Victoria Park as I was getting organized and preparing. I was rubbing anti-blister ointment on the soles of my feet and then loading up the backpack. I had spent the night at my in-laws’ home in Temecula, and had just arrived myself.
Robert is an older man with a magnificent handle bar mustache. Dressed in a light blue corduroy long-sleeve shirt, jeans and boots, he spoke in a soft, country-style accent. He had driven in from the east. I felt bad because I thought he was a resident of P.S.
Once I was ready, I took out my flag pole and Robert’s eyes got big. He had arrived in a very small car, and was worried that the pole wouldn’t fit. I put it flag-end in, diagonally across the car, sticking out of the passenger side window. He programmed his Garmin to lead us to the starting point, and away we went.
Robert and I didn’t speak much as we traveled, but those will be the most cherished 40 minutes I have ever spent with a man. From now on, he and I will be going on annual weekend trips together. I cain’t quit choo…
Okay. I’m kidding. But, he was nice, and gave me a generous donation once we reached the destination. Thank you very much, Robert!
I wandered around the Civic Center Park, looking at the statuary and man-made lagoon. Then I stretched out, checked in on Twitter, unfurled my flag, and set off.
Already, it was 95 degrees in Palm Desert. The night before, my father-in-law had let me pick from his collection of hats, and I was wearing a Nabisco Golf Tournament fedora-style hat. I decided to wear sun glasses that day because of the brightness all around me. It’s a good thing I had the hat and sunglasses. Later on, they saved my ass.
Palm Desert is a nice area. I traveled north until I reached Bob Hope Drive and then veered north-east, and then north. An older man with a gray brillo pad of chest hair rode past me on a bicycle. He snidely said, “Happy Earth Day!”
Though I had a CamelBak backpack, I haven’t had the time to fill it with ice and water to sip from. Instead, I decided to carry water bottles, and to stop at Starbucks along the way.
I figured Starbucks, like Syphilis, could be found on every corner. I was wrong. There were some parts of the town without one, and so, I didn’t have wi-fi connectivity to check my travel route as I went.
On this day, I did an experiment. I plastered a broad smile on my face and waved at people as the drove in my direction. Usually only 3 out of 100 honk, wave, give a thumbs-up, or wave a finger from the steering wheel.
But, by smiling at them and waving, that jumped to 50-90% of passersby.
Because of this response, it wasn’t so tiring to walk, hold the flag pole and wave. So, the miles just passed fairly easily. Twice, I was flipped off, when I entered the south-eastern part of Palm Springs from Rancho Mirage. It was a low-income residential area; predominantly Hispanic.
I ended up distracted from waving and nodding to people who responded enthusiastically, because I found myself on the northern-edge of town before I knew it. Before me was nothing but dunes and desert, and a casino way in the distance. Beyond that, I found out, was I-10.
Looking at the expanse of sand, cactus, and asphalt before me, I paused. I took a photo of the daunting sight, wondering if Dean Martin Rd really the next road in the distance as Google Maps had shown.
Just then, some young guy drove by and yelled, “F***ing f***ot!” As I was the only pedestrian around for miles, I surmised he was addressing me. This really bummed me out. But, I said a prayer, forgiving the guy and asking God to bless him. When you are tired and you extend yourself freely to others, it is a kick in the gut when an anonymous person treats you so disrespectfully.
I went into a CVS that was to my left, on one end of a strip mall. There was nothing else around for miles. I purchased a giant can of an energy drink, and drank it as I marched into the sandy expanse of the desert.
Many people honked and waved, from both directions. And, despite the heat and occasional sandy breezy that filled my mouth with the taste of Palm Springs, I smiled broadly.
When I reached the next intersecting road, I saw that it wasn’t Dean Martin. I was by the Moranga Casino, I think, and saw that the I-10 lead east to west before me. I knew I needed to follow the road I came to back to Palm Springs. But, I didn’t want to carry the industrial-sized can of Monster.
I tried waving down some cars, but they drove by. Finally a twenty-three year old guy with black wavy hair and a grin asked me if I needed a ride. I asked him if it would be alright to give him the can. He agreed and I asked him his name. He said, “My name’s Brandon. Tell people, I’m the guy who’s going to save the world!” With that, he drove off.
I headed west, waving at oncoming cars, and saluting those who saluted the flag. By that time, I was pretty drained. I had run out of bottled war, and started feeling dizzy. The hat and sunglasses enabled me to endure what would otherwise have been a very dangerous situation. For the temperature even hotter by this time, and my blood sugar had dropped.
When I was back in the neighborhoods of P.S., I headed south to make up for having missed the southern portion of the 111 Hwy route. For another four miles, I walked, waved, and saluted.
Finally, I decided to head west to get to S. Indian Canyon, so I could head back north to Victoria Park. It was 4:40 pm, and I was staggering.
I was about to throw up when a pretty Mexican soccer mom walked up to me from a park I was walking through. She asked me if I spoke Spanish. “Un pocito, Senora,” I replied. She spoke in awkward English, telling me that she had seen me earlier in the day, waving and carrying the flag on the other side of town.
She asked me if I wanted some water, and I gratefully said, yes! She went to get a cold water bottle from a bag. She said her son was playing soccer but that he had plenty.
I drank the entire bottle in ten seconds. I thanked her and walked toward the community center that was on the west-end of the park, just south of Mesquite Road. There, I rested, and bought Gatorade and a candy bar. After fifteen minutes, I started toward S. Indian Canyon Road.
Somewhere along the line, I came to a commercial district, and saw a Carl’s Jr and Starbucks. I went into the Carl’s Jr and ate a Bourbon Bacon Cheeseburger. I was famished. I would just say, starved, but in this case, famished was the absolute perfect word to describe how hungry I was.
A woman named, Kim was being tutored in math. She was in the booth in front of me. She asked my why I was carrying the flag and wearing a shirt that said, “Uphold Your Oaths.”
I told her about the march and that I demand that our politicians uphold their oaths of office, and protect the Constitution; and by extension, our civil rights. She was very interested in my march, so I gave her my card.
After I finished, I went to Starbucks to check on via the wi-fi. There, a liberal woman named Laurie asked me the same thing as Kim. Only Laurie wanted to know if I supported gay rights, and the right to choose abortion. I didn’t get to respond, as she spoke rapidly and jumped from subject to subject. She said the Republicans want to control women’s uteruses.
I told her that the War on Women meme was a Democrat Party construct and was absolutely false. Laurie then told me that her husband was a gun owner, and was concerned about control laws. I wondered if he, too, shared his wife’s views on the subjects she raised.
I left and from that point on, it grew dark. Very few, if any people saw me as they drove by. Hardly anyone was on the streets. P.S. seems to have seen better times. There were many empty shops and economically-depressed commercial complexes.
I reached a trendy zone, though, where hipsters were out having dinner, or looking at galleries. As I passed on such gallery, a man came out, looked at me and said, “Hey, Bro. Peace.” The way he said it sounded more like a statement than a greeting.
From there, I saw businesses with rainbow flags flying outside their door. I figured they were advertising that they were gay-friendly clubs or perhaps something the city has established.
It was 8:30 pm by then, and I stopped in from of a small restaurant that had a “Free Wi-Fi” sign in the window. I was unpacking my tablet when a young woman named, Ericka leaned out the door and asked me if there was a parade.
Again, I told her who I was and what I was doing. She offered me ice water in a large styrofoam cups. I gave her my card and walked the last mile to where my car was parked.
I was so glad to be finished. I had walked well over twenty miles, and I was sandy and tired. I sat in the car, next to a firestation, using their wi-fi to locate the 24 Hour Fitness Center I wanted to go to in order to bathe and rest. When I found two listed in P.S., I drove to the first one, when was in Cathedral City.
I couldn’t find it. I drove around several time, but didn’t see the sign or building. I asked several locals, but they barely spoke English. The fourth one was at a Taco Bell drive-thru window. He told me there weren’t any 24 Hour Fitnesses there anymore. I did a Search for Gym location using my Android, and it said that the nearest club was almost 15 miles east.
I decided to drive to Riverside, instead of wasting even more gas. I knew there was a club there.The drive was sketchy, as there was a powerful windstorm. Sand obscured visibility for seconds at a time. It was harrowing, as my car veered left and right. I had to drive less than 45 miles per hour.
When I got to downtown Riverside, I learned that that particular 24 Hour Fitness club was closed on Mondays. I was bummed. And feeling gross.
I tapped into a nearby Starbuck’s wi-fi again and saw that there was a club in Redlands. So, I drove even further to it.
Thankfully, it was open, and bustling with exercisers, even though it was 11 pm. I took a very hot shower, got dressed, and went to sleep in the back of my mini-van after I stretched out.
Despite the noise of freight trains passing by, I slept well.
This morning, I drove to Rancho Cucamonga City Library to update my blog, and to park at the end point of tomorrow’s march.